Just because some young chickadee was impressed by yesterday’s opus doesn’t mean I’m steeped in the new ways. Yes, I can navigate GARAGEBAND and do at home what it used to cost me $3000 to produce in a studio. But I still create a la 1980.
So I played the track for another girl – this one about 50 – but the mother of many children who keep her outlook youthful. She listened intently and then asked “Where you get that drumbeat?” And I got the distinct impression what she wanted to know was from which record did I rip the trap kit.
My answer was “Look here! This ain’t no Betty Crocker cake that comes out of a box with icing out of a can. This shit is homegrown and created from scratch.” Which means I build each element of the track individually – including a high hat track, bass drum, snare and whatever other percussion (in this case claves) – all of which is tapped out on a keyboard. Then I play all the musical instruments one at a time (with the exception of the horns which are played on the keyboard).
Why this woman has a frame of reference which features ripping parts from other records began with rap and hip hop. That rip off is euphemistically called “sampling.” While there have been a few rap records which skillfully Frankensteined parts from other records to make an appealing product (“How Ya Like Me Now” would be the gold standard), I’m just not that modern guy who feels like I created something by piling up other people’s intellectual property and calling it my own. And that’s where I’m a total fucking geezer.
When I was actually a professional musician, things were much different. Musicians spent years studying to become proficient on their instruments. Many read and wrote music nomenclature fluently. R & B productions often included big orchestral backgrounds written note for note by skilled arrangers. I was in awe of some of the people I worked with and for.
Then along came the drum machine, synthesizer and hip hop. And suddenly a new music culture was born. A culture in which you didn’t have to pay your dues to play the blues. You could simply steal others’ proficiency and call it your own! Guys couldn’t read nor write. They simply put a record on a turntable and called themselves creative.
There was a moment in time when hookers roamed the streets in my neighborhood. One night while coming home from a bar, a young streetwalker approached me with the sales pitch “Come on, baby. I’ll turn you into a DJ!” Right then I really knew it was over. Kids no longer admired guys who could play their instruments. Now they got all excited about a dude who played a record.
It was hard for me then. And it’s still hard for me now. Excuse me….but the art of streaming records together to keep people dancing pales in the face of a Quincy Jones arrangement or an Eric Clapton guitar solo.
Well anyway…none of this matters. I don’t make music with the specific intent of making money for my efforts. I’m just jerking myself off for the fuck of it. It’s a hobby to keep me occupied in my retirement.
And speaking of jerking off and getting jerked off…a record label in England contacted me about licensing a couple of tracks I made 30 – 35 years ago to actually press into vinyl for their niche market. So I emailed him back and guess what! I haven’t heard a thing in 2 weeks. Ah, the music business. Still full of bull shit artists. What are ya gonna do?